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More to life: Summary

Watch Alice Roberts round up what we have learned about how humanists find depth and wonder in their lives
Congratulations, you’ve completed Week 5. Over this week we met humanists making the most of life. Being alive is about more than merely existing, as conscious and creative creatures, we have the capacity to add enormous richness and colour to our lives. While many humanists devote time to the causes that they believe will improve human wellbeing, they also recognize that space needs to be made in our own lives to live it as fully as we possibly can, after all this is the only life we’ve got. We learned from humanist scientists about the pleasure of curiosity and the motivation to tackle mystery, and how a scientific understanding of the natural world, including ourselves, adds greater beauty to our view of them.
We learned from historians, anthropologists and psychologists about the humanist fascination with human behaviour and the human story. And we learned how and why creativity and the arts provide a source of joy to many humanists and how art and literature can help us make sense of our own lives. For humanists it is the connections that imbue our lives with meaning, connections with a natural world, with a human story, with each other with something bigger than ourselves. There is depth and wonder in a humanist approach to life. For humanists, a flourishing life involves embracing our talents, our interests, and our passions, and living life to the full. See you next week.

This week

This week we met humanists who had something to share about where they find joy in being human. For some, this hunger to make the most of life is expressed through curiosity and exploration, be that deep into the human mind or far out into the cosmos. For others it comes through creativity and the opportunity to find meaning in spaces and means of expression that, while still natural, our scientific instruments struggle to probe. For yet others it is found through the connections we make with other people. For many, a good life involves some combination of all of these. For others it can involve something completely different (one does not need to share the passions of the people we have met this week). Humanists take delight in being human and believe that, by using our natural human capacities to the full, we can make more of life.

Let’s summarise what we have learned:

  1. Humanists believe a scientific understanding of the world and of human beings does not remove the enormous capacity for depth and wonder to be found in life.
  2. Curiosity and the motivation to tackle mystery can provide some humanists with a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
  3. Humanists believe our sense of awe is not diminished, but is enhanced by a scientific understanding of how the world works.
  4. The natural world can provide humanists with a sense of wonder, liberation, and connection to something bigger.
  5. Some humanists are fascinated by religion and beliefs in supernatural phenomena from a psychological, historical, and cultural perspective.
  6. Drawing on stories (fictional and historical) can help us to make sense of our own lives. Stories can also foster our capacity for empathy.
  7. For humanists, the human capacity for creativity and imagination provides ample potential to add richness and colour to our lives.
  8. The creative arts can bring us together in ways that language sometimes struggles to.
  9. It is the connections we make that enrich our lives: with friends and family, with those with whom we share passions and goals, with human history, and with the rest of the natural world. These connections can give us the sense that we are part of something bigger.
  10. While not all humanists will engage in organised groups, some will find that such groups support their need for community, and that they can be of value in forging links with other communities.

This summary step is a good space to ask any questions you still have in the comments area and to take the opportunity to help out your fellow learners with their queries.

Next week

The things that might enrich our lives are not available to all. The existence of people for whom the pleasures of education, nature, art, and human connection are most out of reach, can be a source of motivation for many humanists to work for a world in which these opportunities are made available to as many people as possible.

Earlier in the course we met humanists working for humanist organisations on campaigns relating to freedom of religion and belief and on those ethical debates in which the humanist voice can make a unique difference. However, many individual humanists will focus their attention on a wide variety of other causes that might improve human wellbeing. Next week, we’ll meet humanists working in charities, politics, and education, and hear about the ways in which they are working for what they believe will be a better world.

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Humanist Lives, with Alice Roberts

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